NEWTON, Iowa – As strong as he normally is in Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying, Will Power doesn’t need the added advantage of being last in the qualifying order – when track conditions are typically best – and with the benefit of seeing how his Team Penske teammates perform before him.
With the bonus of drawing the last spot in today’s Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Iowa Corn 300, Power was not to be denied. The 36-year-old Australian blitzed the field to earn the 48th pole position of his 13-year Indy car career, with a two-lap speed average of 185.210 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The 2014 series champion will lead the grid to the green flag for the fourth time this season on Sunday.
“It’s just about hard work and bringing out your raw speed when you need it. I love qualifying,” said Power, who closed within one pole position of tying Bobby Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car list. “It’s the part of the weekend where you push and give everything you can possibly give.”
IOWA CORN 300: Qualifying results
Power’s two-lap average was 1.4 mph faster than Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. It marks the second pole on Iowa Speedway’s fast 0.894-mile oval for Power and the third straight at the track for Team Penske, whose 252 Indy car poles are the most of any team in history.
“It was definitely nerve-racking when I watched my teammates’ data because you can watch it live on the (pit) stand and they were having big spikes of oversteer,” said Power, who looked on as Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves qualified ahead of him in the line. “We were thinking we didn’t run enough downforce, but the track came in a little bit and we watched Helio’s run – it was really solid – so I knew we’d be thereabouts. Really, really happy for the Verizon car to be on pole.”
No Iowa pole sitter has gone on to win the race in 10 previous Verizon IndyCar Series events at Iowa, and Team Penske has yet to win a race at the track.
Hildebrand’s career-best qualifying effort of second was impressive as well, considering the 29-year-old Californian crashed in morning practice. Uninjured save for bruised knees, Hildebrand nearly lost the car in the same spot in Turn 2 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt, but saved it and completed the run.
“We certainly came in here expecting that we could put the car in the front row, so I'm just sort of in a way relieved that we were able to recover from this morning and do that,” said Hildebrand, whose average speed of 183.811 mph came in the same chassis that Newgarden drove to victory at Iowa for ECR in 2016, leading an Indy car-record 282 laps.
“You obviously want to be able to capitalize on opportunities to get poles when they present themselves,” Hildebrand added. “Today certainly would have been one of those for us, but I think in the big scheme of things, we'll certainly take a front-row spot. A lot of credit to the team to give me something to be confident to get back out there and push pretty hard.”
As with Row 1, the second row for the 300-lap race will consist of a driver each from Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing. Castroneves qualified third in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (183.712 mph), with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter fourth in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (183.503 mph).
Takuma Sato, winner of May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, qualified fifth and was the top Honda with an average speed of 182.653 mph in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
AJ Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz did not complete his qualifying run after spinning in Turn 2 and making light SAFER Barrier contact with the rear of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Munoz will start last in Sunday’s race, the 11th of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Points leader Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Pagenaud suffered from being the first three drivers in the qualifying order, when the track was the most green. Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 11th, Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 16th after leading opening practice and Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) was 17th.